Some political betting markets never stop. No sooner have we settled a Tory leadership contest and the bookies are betting on who will succeed Boris Johnson. Who knows – with the new PM likely to face a No Confidence vote as soon as parliament emerges from recess, this could be settled within months.
That, to be clear, is not my view. As explained in my previous piece, my current estimate is that Johnson’s Conservatives will comfortably win most seats in any imminent election. However with the outcome and impact of Brexit extremely uncertain, making confident predictions about anything after October 31st is fraught with risk.
Johnson’s future entirely dependent on Brexit
One way or another, Brexit will define Johnson and his legacy. If failing to deliver it, he’s finished and perhaps too his party. If the short-term is catastrophic, as so many critics warn, that will finish him sooner or later, even if enough it doesn’t prevent him securing an election win before the worst fallout. If deemed a relative success, Johnson will be a hero on the Right and probably be able to choose his date of departure.
So lets consider the criteria for would-be successors in each scenario. If failing to deliver Brexit, expect a mass defection of members to the Brexit Party or whatever vehicle Nigel Farage creates next. They could lose hundreds of seats. It is unclear what would happen to opinion among the remaining Tory members. Calculations would be restricted to those who haven’t defected, with safe seats.
PM and allies’ reputation could sink afer a disorderly Brexit
In the catastrophic no deal scenario, it could ruin the reputations of those responsible – Johnson and most of his Cabinet. The beneficiaries could be those who didn’t endorse him – whether that be a less-defined Brexiter like Penny Mordaunt or a supporter of the Withdrawal Agreement like Rory Stewart.